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Children and Common Illnesses: 48% Already Sick In the 2022-2023 School Year

Kids are back in school, and that means the return of back-to-school illnesses. As children across the country are spending time in classrooms, for many families, there’s a concern of what their kids might bring home. From the flu to pink eye or the common cold, many illnesses get spread around schools, especially as winter nears. 

We surveyed more than 1,000 parents of school-aged children to learn more about the precautions they take and how illnesses impact their families and everyday life, especially for those who work from home. 

Children & Common Illnesses

School and Sickness in 2022

While there are many illnesses that can go around a school and impact families, the most common sicknesses parents are concerned about this year include COVID-19 (70%), the flu (63%), common cold (46%), stomach flu (37%), strep throat (37%), head lice (32%), and pink eye (19%). Additionally, 64% of parents say they’re somewhat worried about their child getting sick this year, followed by 22% who are not worried, and 14% who are very worried. 

Nearly half (48%) of parents say they’ve already had a child get sick this school year. 3 in 4 (76%) report their child had a common cold, more than 1 in 5 (22%) had COVID-19, and 1 in 10 had the stomach flu.

There are several ways parents and kids are taking precautions to stay healthy this year. The number one precaution is frequent handwashing (79%). This is followed by getting enough sleep (75%), coughing and sneezing into a tissue or elbow (63%), being up to date on vaccinations (60%), and eating healthy foods (56%). Despite these efforts, nearly 1 in 2 (45%) parents struggle to get their kids to follow these health precautions. Additionally, 38% believe there will be more illness this school year due to the relaxation of COVID-19 prevention measures. 

Sickness & School

School and Sickness in 2022

Although the majority of families are taking precautions to prevent illness, 80% of parents believe their kids will end up getting sick this school year. In fact, nearly 1 in 4 (23%) believe their kids be sick 3 times throughout the year. 

But when do you keep your child home? 1 in 5 parents encourage their kids to go to school even if they don’t feel well. In fact, 70% send their child to school if they have a runny nose and 27% do the same if their child has a sore throat. However, 98% of parents report keeping their kids home if they have a fever. 

So far this school year, 45% of parents had children stay home sick and 13% say their child was sent home sick from school. It’s no secret illnesses can spread quickly throughout families, 73% say other people in their household got sick after their child brought home an illness from school.

Eye health is something to also keep top of mind for children during the school year. Pink eye is most common in children under the age of 7. It’s an inflammation of the transparent membrane in the eye. 30% of parents say they don’t go to the doctor or urgent care if they think their child has pink eye and 42% are not concerned about their child getting pink eye. Of those who have had children contract the illness (33%), 53% believe their child got it from a classmate. 

Working from Home & Sick Children

School and Sickness in 2022

Being a working parent is hard, and now that many work from home, it’s creating new challenges. More than half (56%) of respondents have at least one parent or guardian in the house who works from home. 65% say it’s difficult to work when a child is home sick. In fact, 57% of parents have taken a day or a half day off work due to a child being homesick. Because of this, many parents plan ahead with 55% saving PTO and sick days just in case their child gets sick. Nearly 1 in 2 (47%)  don’t have child care like a grandparent or friend they can rely on if their child is home sick. Additionally, 46% with young children say they’ve dealt with a daycare shutdown.

One way to help prevent the spread of illness is to get vaccinated. 68% of parents say their children haven’t gotten the flu shot this year, however, among them, 54% plan to get it. Meanwhile, 47% say their child hasn’t gotten the COVID-19 vaccine with 53% of parents not wanting their child to get the vaccine at all.

Whether you’ve already dealt with sickness this year or you’re trying to hold it off a bit longer from reaching your home, know you’re not alone. Taking precautions now and all year long can help keep you and your family healthy. 


In September 2022, we surveyed 1,055 parents of children aged 2-17 to get their feedback on childhood illnesses. Respondents ranged in age from 20 to 67 with an average age of 37. 50% of respondents were female, 48% male, and 2% non-binary/transgender. 

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Last Updated October 5, 2022

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